Buying Cigarettes Online Is Cheap Until NYC Asks for Millions


New York City is going after 32 people for buying thousands of cartons of cigarettes online and reselling them illegally to get around the city’s astronomical tax on anything that feels good. The city filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, which also targets the now-defunct Kentucky tobacco company Chavez Inc., seeking $6.5 million in revenue NYC missed out on between 2003 and 2009, plus $13 million in penalties. Michael Bloomberg is pissed on behalf of our poor city.

“Illegal cigarettes cost our city and state billions of dollars through increased health care costs and by cheating law-abiding small businesses out of customers and cheating taxpayers out of much needed tax revenue,” the mayor said in a statement, so it’s both a money and a health thing, which is masterful PR maneuvering.

The city tax on cigarettes is $1.50 per pack, added to the $4.35 state tax and 61-cent sales tax, which brings your total to holy shit, why am I still smoking.

Roza Budansky, one woman named in the suit, allegedly ordered almost $1 million worth of 32,232 cartons to a Brooklyn apartment over a three-year span. Someone must’ve been using her name, she claims, because she did it “maybe two or three times” and “didn’t even know at that time it was illegal.”

Meanwhile, in the land of small fish, at least one brave man continues to sell loose cigarettes on the street, so keep an eye out for him, and also, you can buy harder drugs on Craigslist.


This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 22, 2011

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